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Everything in the Oceans Is Dying


Today’s installment of this continuing series:

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

Yes, it’s climate change and changing those behaviors, well, that ain’t going to happen. But it’s also the industrialization of the oceans:

Fragile ecosystems like mangroves are being replaced by fish farms, which are projected to provide most of the fish we consume within 20 years. Bottom trawlers scraping large nets across the sea floor have already affected 20 million square miles of ocean, turning parts of the continental shelf to rubble. Whales may no longer be widely hunted, the analysis noted, but they are now colliding more often as the number of container ships rises.

Mining operations, too, are poised to transform the ocean. Contracts for seabed mining now cover 460,000 square miles underwater, the researchers found, up from zero in 2000. Seabed mining has the potential to tear up unique ecosystems and introduce pollution into the deep sea.

The oceans are so vast that their ecosystems may seem impervious to change. But Dr. McClenachan warned that the fossil record shows that global disasters have wrecked the seas before. “Marine species are not immune to extinction on a large scale,” she said.

The oceans are the ultimate in out of sight industrial production because the only people who can get down to see them are those with special equipment. Even those who live on the shore can’t see more than a few inches below the surface. But the companies know what’s down there and they will extract it all, leaving the oceans a giant jellyfish desert.

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  • Eli Rabett

    Don’t you read the Onion:

    New Climate Change Study Just 400 Pages Of Scientists Telling Americans To Read Previous Climate Change Studies

  • c u n d gulag

    When everything’s gone but the jellyfish, what will sushi and sashimi joints serve?

    Jellyfish sashimi?
    Jellyfish sushi?
    Kobe jellyfish?

    • Yes.

      There is already a lot more jellyfish on menus around the world than just a decade ago.

      • c u n d gulag

        I haven’t been able to afford real good quality restaurant sashimi and sushi in the last 7 years.

        Now that I get SS Disability, I may be able to finally get some of the good stuff a few times a year.

        I refuse to eat the crap at the supermarkets.
        I’d rather remember great sashimi/sushi meals in the past, than eat that junk.

    • CaptainBringdown

      When life gives you a giant jellyfish desert, make a giant jellyfish dessert.

      • Lee Rudolph

        They make a desert, and they call it Pisces.

    • tomstickler

      You may laugh, but we have a local controversy in Beaufort, SC over discharge from a jellyfish processing plant.

      Seems the Chinese consider it a delicacy.


  • “Go on and poison all the water, use up all the air
    Blow your stupid heads off, see if I could care
    Put me down but don’t blame me for what you did
    ‘Cause inside everyone is a heavy metal kid”

    -Todd Rundgren, but (I think) he was kidding.

  • Brett

    There’s a few bright spots in a very dark picture, in that the US, Canada, and the like aren’t actively over-exploiting their own fisheries and EEZ waters as much anymore (although god knows if some of the worst-hit fisheries, like the Grand Banks, will ever recover).

    Not that that does much good for overfishing and exploitation on the high seas, or the rampant overfishing in poor countries’ water (witness the Somali pirates, coming into existence after European, Japanese, and Chinese trawlers strip-mined their coastal waters of fish). You’ll end up with the Jellyfish Pond and whatever happens to be good at evading fishing nets in the open ocean, with only a handful of reserves under protection that might eventually serve as a nucleus of biodiversity for repopulating the oceans.

    • Andrew

      The problem in places like the US and Canada is that the sustainability metrics used tend to be based on maintaining current population baselines, which are frequently horrifically low compared to historical levels.

  • j_kay

    I hate the Wall Street Party “paper”- isn’t one OBVIOUS way fo regulate fish farms so we can feed ourseves recyclably? But would offend the one god Reagan. Can we jellyfish them to death, please?

    After all farmed jellyfish are best, right?

    Seriously, fish farming as a solution were obvious to me from reading Collapse and a kidhood visit to a shrimp farm, which could’ve been made from chopped mangrove, as far as I know. But we CAN, actually, learn how to regulate better, eh, Wall Street Party? Unpolluted skies was quite the win when I was a kid, as was unleaded everything.

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